POLICING THE PRAIRIES
REV. R. G. MACBETH
PERHAPS the startling story of “The Massacre Ground” at Cypress Hills, some forty miles north of the American boundary line, and kindred stories were the last straws which, added to the weight of evidence for the necessity of an armed force in the west, moved the Dominion government to active organization work in forming the Mounted Police.
This Cypress Hills event is a gruesome enough story but it is part of the setting for the entrance of the Mounted Police on the stage of western life.
It appears that a party of men— we call them men by courtesy as they were human beings of the male persuasion—crossed over from Montana on a trading expedition. They were white men but perhaps of various races for they were mostly adventurers who had served in the American civil war and had not much regard for human life. These men deluged an Assiniboine Indian camp with deadly whisky in return for every valuable thing the Indians had to trade. And when the Indian camp was ablaze with the light of campfires and was a mad whirl of dancing drunkenness the miscreant traders from the south, in a spirit of utter wanton deviltry, got under cover of a cut bank by the creek where the camp was, and proceeded o shoot the Indians who were defenceless in their orgy. A volley or two accounted for two score killed and many wounded, only a few escaping to the hills. And this carnival of bloodshed was witnessed by an American trader, Abe Farwell, who, being alone, was helpless to prevent it, but he testified as to the frightful occurrence.
Nor was this very far from the general order of the day. Bloods, Piegans, Blackfeet, Crees, Assiniboines and the other tribes maddened with doped liquor from outlaw traders fought each other whenever they met. And some cases were known where Blackfeet and Crees, implacable enemies, happening to meet at some trading post, struggled with fierce brutality while .the Hudson’s Bay trader in the fort had to barricade his gate and let them fight it out amongst themselves. I have myself seen Indian braves with half a score of scalps dangling from their belts and others with no end of nicks in their rifle stocks to indicate the number they had slain. Buffalo hunters from the white and half-breed settlements by the Red and the Assiniboine rivers only ventured westward in large companies heavily armed. Explorers ran great risks and the famous Captain Palliser had to hunt one whole winter with Old Sun, chief of the Blackfeet, that he might become as one of that fighting tribe and get leave to draw his maps.
First Mobilization of the Mounties
COMMUNICATION was difficult but the news of
these events of frightfulness percolated through to Ottawa and the order went out in September 1873 that officers already appointed should proceed to recruit in the eastern provinces and rush some part of the force to the far west so as to be on the ground by the next spring. The principal recruiting officer seems to have been Inspector James Morrow Walsh, who became one of the noted men of the force in later years. It is a somewhat remarkable coincidence and a decided testimony to the directness with which the mounted police when organized struck at the very heart of the lawlessness in the West, that Fort Walsh, called after this recruiting inspector, was built as a police post not many months later, practically on the massacre ground, in the Cypress Hills country. That fort was a direct and visible challenge to every outlaw, white or red, who expected to have his own way in British territory.
There was no difficulty in getting men to enlist in the Mounted Police. In fact, Colonel George A. French, a royal artillery officer, then at the head of the school of gunnery at Kingston, who was early given command of the Mounted Police with the title of commissioner, saw the danger of a rush for places on the new force and took steps to weed out undesirables.
There was an intangible but real atmosphere in the corps which in some quiet but quite definite fashion, eliminated any man who did not measure up to the mark which the members felt they ought to reach. Charles Mair, the author and frontiersman, says finely, “the
average mounted policeman was an idealist regarding the honor of his corps; and if, as sometimes happened, a hard character crept into it, physically fit, a good rider or a good shot, but coarse, cruel and immoral, he fared ill with his fellows, and speedily betook himself to other employment.”
The men who first enlisted in the east, mainly in Ontario, in September 1873, were sent away westward by the great
The First Man Sworn In
lakes and the difficult Dawson route to the Red river country in order to be on the ground and get down 'to work preparatory to the trek towards the setting sun. They duly landed at Lower Fort Garry, the old Hudson’s Bay post still romantically standing on the banks of the Red river some twenty miles north of the present city of Winnipeg. They came in three troops or divisions, “A”, “B”, and “C” of fifty men each, which was the number of the Force which the law-makers at Ottawa thought would be sufficient to patrol three hundred thousand square miles of territory where lawlessness was beginning to be rampant.
IT IS interesting to note in connection with this oath which pledges faithful performance of duty and the protection and due care of their equipment and other public property that the first signature is that of Arthur Henry Griesbach, who was then regimental sergeant-major but who later on became one of the ablest superintendents. He has been referred to as the special adviser of Sir John A. Macdonald in Ottawa for some months prior to the organization of the police, and on this account shares with Sir John the designation of the “Father of the Force.” Griesbach’s signature was witnessed by Samuel B. Steele who was then troop sergeant-major and who after very notable service in the police and the militia was promoted to a major-generalship and knighted. Amongst other wellknown signatures is that of John Henry Mclllree then a sergeant who, with much excellent work in the force to his credit, became assistant commissioner and is now retired with the rank of colonel and the imperial service order.
That winter in the old stone-walled fort was a busy one for the new recruits. After they were sworn in by Col. Osborne Smith, that officer returned tohis duties at Upper Fort Garry. On his leaving, Supt. W. D. Jarvis, who had seen service in Africa and became a very popular officer, took over the duties of Adjutant and riding master, Griesbach took charge of discipline and foot-drill, while S. B. Steele, popularly known in the west to the close of his days as Sam. Steele, looked after the breaking of the bronchos and gave instruction in riding, which latter proved to be highly necessary. There were no eight hour days, the only limit being the daylight each way. Steele drilled five rides a day in the open and the orders were that unless the thermometer dropped beneath 36 below zero, a rather cool temperature, the riding and breaking were to proceed. The bronchos were of the usual exuberant type, given to every device to throw a rider, and falls on the frozen ground were not infrequent, but by spring the i®en knew how to handle bronchos so as to become the pioneers of fine horsemanship amongst the riders of the plains.
Lt. Col. French came in November 1873 and assumed his command. It did not take him long to see that a handful of 150 men, however gallant, would be totally inadequate for the gigantic undertaking ahead of them. The force has always been too small in numbers but at the outset the proposed strength was absurdly below the mark. Fortunately the news of the lawlessness that was abroad in the far West made it possible for Col. French to get the proposed number doubled and brought up to the 300 which Constable T. A. Boys made famous in his well known poem, “The Riders of the Plains.” Meanwhile down in eastern Canada the left wing of the force was being recruited and permission being obtained from the United States, three divisions, rather over strength, left Toronto on June 6th 1874 and came west via Chicago and St. Paul to the end of steel at Fargo in North Dakota. Col. French had gone back east to come out with them. It was a motley outfit that dumped itself out of the train on that Dakota plain. The men were a carefully selected and fine appearing lot and the horses were of the handsome eastern type, but the wagons in pieces to be assembled and the saddles shipped from England in parts, were strewn over the ground for acres. The Fargo people rather enjoyed the idea of these men with their interesting mission being amongst them for a week or so getting ready for the trail. But to the amazement of those townsfolk the police, starting at 4 o’clock in the morning and working
in four hour relays, “hit the trail” within twenty-four hours and pulled out their cavalcade for the trip to Canadian territory.
Just before leaving Lower Fort Garry with the original divisions Inspector James Farquharson McLeod had been appointed assistant commissioner of the force. Thus one of the noted figures in the after history of Western Canada came upon the scene of his future work and triumphs. His absolute reliability and fearless fairness gave him an influence over the Indians in later days that can only be described as extraordinary, and the time came when that commanding power over the warlike Blackfeet stood Canada in good stead.
A Terrific Night on The Open Prairie
COMMISSIONER FRENCH lost no time in getting his men into shape at the rendezvous. From the divisions he brought with him he drafted fifty men to bring the original divisions up to strength. He arranged the night camp with the eastern horses inside the zareba of wagons and the western horses, mostly bronchos, on the outside—an arrangement that turned out well in view of a stampede that took place. The occasion of the stampede—and there is1 nothing more fearful than a stampede of maddened animals— was a terrific thunderstorm which transformed the prairie into a sea of electric flame and sent blazing bolts crashing into the zareba amidst the horses that were tied to the wagons. Sergeant-Major Sam. B. Steele who was riding near this enclosure, thus vividly described the scene: “A thunder-bolt fell in
the midst of the horses. Terrified they broke their fastenings and made for the side of the corral. The six men on guard were trampled under foot as they tried to stop them. The maddened beasts overturned the huge wagons, dashed through a row of tents, scattered everything and made for the gate of the large field in which we were encamped. In their mad efforts to pass they climbed over one another. I had full view of the stampede, being not more than fifty yards from the horses as they rushed at the gate and attempted to pass it, scrambling and rolling over one another in one huge mass.
Inspector Walker leaped on a passing horse and went out with them into the night.
He thus pursued the frightened animals for some fifty miles across the boundary and helped to round them up and bring them back twenty-four hours after they had stampeded.” Col. Walker says “The horses did not get over their fright all summer and had to be watched closely as any unusual noise would stampede them.”
This was truly an exciting introduction to prairie life for both horses and men.
On the Long, Long Trail
' I 'HAT thunderstorm with the resultant stampede at Dufferin along with some blood-curdling prophecies of attacks by the scalp-gathering Sioux Indians, had the good effect of weeding out the few non-adventurous spirits who up to now had thought that the hardships and dangers of the expedition had been painted in too lurid a color. This suited Col. French as he had no desire to venture into the wilderness with any but the very best of men. A very necessary part of police equipment, namely their revolvers, did not arrive from England till early in July, but once they had come, French, who was impatient of delay, in beginning so tremendous a trek, gave orders on the 8th of July for a “pull out” or what the old traders called “a Hudson’s Bay start.” The idea of a “pull out” before the real journey began was to shake the line of the caravan into shape, take out any kinks that might need straightening and generally see that everything was working satisfactorily. With field guns and mortars, 73 wagons and 114 of the wooden prairie conveyances known as Red River carts, new harness and other equipment that needed testing the “pull out” in this case was highly desirable.
The prairie had witnessed many a remarkable outfit striking out over the plains with dog-trains in winter and carts and buffalo runners in summer, but it had never seen anything so businesslike and highly picturesque as this police marching-out state. The six divisions or troops of the mounted men, with the convenient alphabetical designation from A to F had been given horses of distinctive color, so in that order there came for the start, dark bays, dark browns, light chestnuts, with the guns, greys, blacks and light bays. After these came wagons, carts, cows and calves, beef cattle and a general assortment of farming implements. ' Meat would be necessary when the buffalo were not available, and it would keep better “on the hoof." Posts would have to be supplied with food, and haying, ploughing and reaping would be
necessary if men and horses were to live at some of the remote points. So they took the necessaries along as far as they could. Of course the impressive order of march at the beginning could not be maintained throughout the gruelling expedition. A thousand miles across swamp and coulees and rivers, over areas of waste and desolate prairie where fires had swept every vestige of grass away, through sections where flies and drought and excessive heat turning into cold as the autumn approached played the inevitable havoc. All these elements combined to throw that ordered line into confusion at times. Here and there cattle died, oxen gave out and quit, horses broke down through lack of food and water; men, hardy as they were, took ill sometimes, but none succumbed, and as Col. French observed in concluding his first report to
Ottawa, “The broad fact is apparent that a Canadian force, hastily raised, armed and equipped, and not under martial law, in a few months marched vast distances through a country for the most part as unknown as it proved bare of pasture and scanty in the supply of water. Of such a march, under such adverse circumstances, all true Canadians may well be proud.”
The officers who led in that remarkable march in Canadian history were: Lieut. Col. George A. French, commissioner; Major James F. McLeod, C.M.G., assistant commissioner; Staff Dr. J. G. Kittson, surgeon; Dr. R. B. Nevitt, assistant surgeon; W. G. Griffiths, paymaster; G.Dalrymple, clerk; Adjutant John L. Poet, veterinary surgeon; Charles Nicolle, quarter master. Division A— W. D. Jarvis, inspector; Severe Gagnon, sub-inspector. Division B—G. A. Brisebois, inspector; J. B. Allan, sub-inspector. Division C. W. Winder, inspector; T. R Jackson, sub-inspector. Division D—Staff division—J. M. Walsh, inspector; J. Walker and J. French, subinspectors. Division E—J. Carvell, inspector; J. H. McIllree and H. J. N. LeCaine, sub-inspectors. Division F— L. F. N. Crozier, inspector; V. Welsh and C. R. Denny, sub-inspectors.
These were the originals amongst the officers and the originals always attract' our special notice.
To Uphold Canada’s Laws
BROADLY speaking, the aim of the Police expedition was to strike at the lawlessness which was specially defiant and open in the foot-hills of the Rockies where the proximity of the international boundary line made it easy for outlaws of all types to evade the consequences of their crimes and depredations on both sides in turn. Besides that it was proposed by a sort of triangular distribution of the three hundred police to cover the whole
north-western territory and in that way give visibility to authority in all localities. To fulfill these aims and reach these objectives the main body of the police was to be sent on this march out to the Bow and Belly rivers near the Cypress hills made infamous by a massacre. Another detachment, separating from the main body was to go northward to Edmonton by way of Forts Ellice and Carlton, while a third under charge of the commissioner was to return to the proposed headquarters at Fort Pelly or Swan river on the north-west boundary of Manitoba. These objectives were all reached after many serious hardships, the only modification in the places being in regard to the Swan river. On returning to that point in the beginning of winter, Col. French found that the barracks were not rady for occupation, some wise-acre having estarted to build them amid granite boulders on a hill. Moreover, prairie fires had burned the hay intended for the police and the Hudson’s Bay Company, having lost their supply also, could not assist. Consequently, the commissioner left only one division there under that very competent officer, Inspector Carvell, and with the rest he pushed on to Winnipeg and the original starting point at Dufferin where he arrived in 30 below zero November weather after a total march for his contingent of nearly 2000 miles.
The third party already mentioned as leaving La Roche Percee was a small detachment under Inspectors Jarvis and Gagnon. With sick and played out horses, a lot of cattle and not much general provision and hardly enough men to keep up the rounds of duty the lot of this detachment starting out on a march of 850 miles was not very enticing. The detachment left La Roche Percee on August 3rd and reached Edmonton by way of Fort Ellice and Carlton on the 27th of October. However, the detachment got through finally and were warmly welcomed by Factor Hardisty, of the Hudson’s Bay post, who, in addition to his owrn open hearted nature, had joy in exercising to the full that generous hospitality for which the old Hudson’s Bay men have been famous for two and a half centuries.
It is highly interesting to find emerging occasionally in these reports the names of men who afterwards became outstanding figures in the force. Constable Labelle is specially singled out for mention by Inspector Jarvis because of his special attention to the horses which were pulled through largely by his assiduous care. And Inspector Jarvis mentions another in his first report from Edmonton when he says, “Sergeant-Major Steele has been undeviating in his efforts to assist me, and he has also done the manual labor of at least two men.”
That Steele could do the manual labor of aat least two men we can well believe. Years after the date on which t is tribute was written byJarvis, I met Steele in the foot-hills of the Rockies and in his tall, powerful figure, deepchested proportions and massive shoulders, he suggested prodigious strength t» the onlooker. And that Steele not only could but would do two men’s work if it seemed his duty goes without saying to those who knew him.
And thus we have seen the mounted police come upon the stage and take their positions at the end of extraordinary marches.
Ousting the "Bad Men”
ORDERS from Ottawa had disposed the mounted police into four different locations, although as »c have seen the fourth had become onlynecessary at Dufferin because there was neither shelter nor adequate pr>vision for headquarters at Fort Pelly. But when we look back into the situation, we can readily see that the assistant Commissioner, Col. MacLeod had the most difficult and dangerous situation of all. The three detachments, namely, those at Edmonton under Jarvis, Fort Pelly under Carvell and Dufferin had shelter and reasonable provision. But MacLeod was out in the open with the winter coming on and no shelter from the blizzards that blow at tunes even across that foothill country’. He was hundreds of miles away from any possibility of help in men or su >stance from Canadian sources and he had only three troops of 50 men each in the midst of a turbulent gang of outlaw whiskey-peddlers and horse-thieves. He was completelysurrounded by thousands of the most, warlike of western Indians with some thousands still more warlike just over the line. Col. MacLeod decided that he could not hope to pull the horses and cattle through the winter in the locality where he was making his headquarters, so he despatched Inspector Walsh and the weakest of the horse»
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Policing the Prairies
Continued from page 15
•and cattle to Sun river, some two hundred miles to the south.
Busy as the police were in trying to build some shelter for their horses and themselves, Colonel MacLeod lost no time striking a body blow at the liquor traffic. Hearing from an Indian named Three Bulls that a colored man was doing business in fire water about 50 miles away, MacLeod sent Inspector Crozier and ten men, accompanied by the inimitable interpreter Jerry Potts, to gather in the outfit. Two days afterwards Crozier returned bringing in the colored gentleman . and four others with some wagon loads of whiskey, a small arsenal of rifles and revolvers as well as many bales of buffalo robes which the whiskey-sellers had taken from the poor Indians in exchange for the drink that was so fatal to these children of the wild. The whiskey was poured out in the snow, the robes were confiscated for the good of the country and the culprits given the option of a fine or jail. This process revealed the headquarters of the traffic, for a sporting man, rejoicing in the sobriquet of “Wavey” came up from Fort Benton in Montana and paid the fines of the white men. There was an extra charge against the colored man whose name was Bond, and as “Wavey” would not intervene Mr. Bond had to go to jail. MacLeod would stand no nonsense. On one occasion a gentleman from the same country as Bond who was sent to jail without option
and who had in his own locality contracted the habit of talking back to judges said to Colonel MacLeod, “When I get out of here, if you put me in, I will make them wires to Washington hum.” “Let them hum,” said the colonel. “In the meantime you go to jail and if you say more you may have your sentence doubled.” The dishonest extortioners on the prairie could do nothing to either frighten or flatter or tamper with men like Colonel MacLeod and his red-coated patrols. Hence we read the sequel in the Colonel’s report in December 1874. “I am happy to be able to report the complete stoppage of the whiskey trade throughout the whole of this section of the country, and that the drunken riots which in former years were almost a daily occurrence are now entirely at an end; in fact a more peaceable community than this, with a very large number of Indians camped along the river, could not be found anywhere. Every one unites in saying how wonderful the change is. People never lock their doors at night and have no fear of anything being stolen which is left lying about outside; whereas just before our arrival, gates and doors were all fastened at night and nothing could be left out of one’s sight.”
Gains Confidence of Savages
COLONEL MACLEOD felt that the first business of the police was to thus protect the Indians who were the wards of the nation and so it was that he had struck a decisive blow at the drink traffic which was bidding fair to exterminate these children of the plains. Once that was done, the Colonel set himself to get into touch with the various native tribes which from the earliest days of the explorers and fur-traders had been looked upon as the most warlike and dangerous.
Accordingly we find MacLeod reporting before the end of 1874 that he had interviewed the chiefs of the practically confederated tribes of the Bloods, Piegans and Blackfeet. He found them very intelligent men and he described in some detail the stately ceremony with which these chiefs had conducted themselves in these interviews.
At these early interviews the chiefs gave unstinted praise to the police before whose coming there had been constant trouble.
In some respects perhaps the most notable event in the spring of 1875 was the sending of Inspector Walsh with “B” division to the Cypress hills country where a fort was built and named after this active and venturous Inspector. Years afterwards when the first Canadian railway had crossed the continent away to the north and conditions were entirely changed after treaties had been made with the Indians and reserves allotted to them, Fort Walsh was abandoned and dismantled^as it had served its purpose.
A peaceful ranch now occupies the site. Other posts were established about this period, such as Fort Calgary, Fort Saskatchewan, Battleford, Carlton in what is now Northern Saskatchewan, Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan and Swan river, an early post, Shoal Lake and Beautiful Plains in the northern section of Manitoba. All of these had their influence on the progress of the west but none had in the pathfinding days the halo of romance that centered around Fort Walsh.
Sometimes later a fort projected by Colonel MacLeod to be erected somewhere midway between Fort MacLeod and the Red Deer River was built by “F” troop of the Mounted Police. It was erected near the Bow River and for a time was known as Fort Brisebois after the officer commanding the division at the time. The name got into orders once or twice but without authority and Colonel MacLeod put an end to any controversy over it by calling it “Calgarry” after his birthplace in Scotland. Our Western mania for shortening names led to the cutting out of a letter and leaving the name in its present form. But the present city of Calgary with its great buildings and its distinctive place within sight of the Rockies has a definite background of early police history which has done much to shape her destiny.
In the ‘70’s changes were taking place in the system of government in the NorthWest Territories that had pronounced influence on the future of the country in ways closely associated with police history. Heretofore the vast territory over which the Police had oversight had been
governed from Manitoba by the Lieut. Governor of that province, assisted by a small body of men called the north west council. In 1876, the Hon. David Laird was appointed Lieut -Governor with a small council to assist him consisting of Colonel MacLeod of the police and Mathew Ryan and Hugh Richardson, stipendiary magistrates. Ryan was a man of considerable literary power and Richardson became prominent as one of the trial judges in the case of Riel and the other rebel leaders some years later. David Laird was a Prince Edward Islander of great stature and gentlemanly bearing.
The Magic of the Scarlet Coat
TpHE IMPRESSIVE scarlet uniform of
the police somehow came to be recognised by the Indians as a sign royal of friendship. Once when Inspector Walsh with several men was riding into a camp of American Indians who had crossed to this side in the wintertime, with his dark blue overcoat lightly buttoned and the men in their great coats, the Indians, thinking they were United States cavalry, met them with levelled rifles and angry faces. Walsh was not the kind of man to halt for that and probably would have paid the penalty for his devotion to duty, had not one of the troopers, catching the situation, thrown his overcoat open and disclosed the scarlet tunic. In a flash the Indians lowered their rifles—they recognised their friends.
The earliest Indian treaty in what is now western Canada was made by Lord Selkirk, whom the Salteaux Indians in the Red river country called “The Silver Chief” because for sterling gifts he obtained from the Indians for his colonists a strip of land extending back as far as one could see a white horse on the prairie on a clear day. That was a primitive method of measurement and depended somewhat on the individual’s power of vision.
The year 1876 witnessed the retirement of Colonel French from the commissionership of the mounted police. Colonel French, who retains to this day a warm interest in the police, was succeeded in the commissionership by Colonel James Farquharson MacLeod. It was a tribute to MacLeod’s work that he was appointed also to aid Governor Laird in the delicate task of making the treaty with the most difficult tribes in the Northwest to handle. Treaties had been made with the Indians who had been most in contact with civilization in the more easterly districts of the Lake of the Woods ; Lake Winnipeg and the Qu’Appelle lakes, but the most imposing spectacles and the most difficult situation began to arise when the governors, flanked by the brilliant scarlet of the mounted police, came to the farther northwest where the Indians retained much of their native dignity and barbaric splendor.
This point was eached when Commiss) ioners Governor Morris, Hon. W. J. Christie and the Hon. James McKay came to Fort Carlton to negotiate with Mistawasis, the great chief of the Crees and his friend Ahtukahcoop. An interesting preface to this treaty was a threat made by a rascally Indian, Chief Beardy of Duck Lake, who said that he would not allow the commissioners to cross the south branch of the Saskatchewan river to come to Carlton. This information was imparted by Lawrence Clark, Hudson’s Bay factor at Carlton, to Inspector James Walker who had arrivedfrom Battleford with fifty mounted police the day before that on which the commissioners were to arrive. Walker, now Colonel Walker of Calgary, a man of commanding stature and strong determination, at once decided to take a hand in the proceedings and swung out with his troop, in the small hours of next morning and hit the trail for Batoche. On the way he overtook the band of Indians with Chief Beardy. Walker paid no attention to them but simply passed them and continued on the way. These Indians rarely indicate surprise but this was the surprise of their lives and they showed it in spite of themselves. They evidently did not calculate on the presence of the force in that part of the world and to have these stalwart red-coated riders come up from the unexpected direction was too much even for their impassiveness. When Walker met the commissioners farther on, he told Governor Morris of the situation
Policing the Prairies
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and then, wheeling his men, formed a scarlet escort around the carriage. When they met Beardy he was in a repentant mood and shook hands with the governor. But this disorderly chief would only sign the treaty in his own camp. Not long afterwards Inspector Walker with two constables had to go to Duck Lake and face this same chief and a band of his insolent warriors and prevent them from looting a store at that point. Still later the incorrigible Beardy took to the warpath with the rebels, Riel and Gabriel Dumont.
A Picturesque Drama on The Plains
THE TREATY, known generally as number 6, was duly made at Carlton by Governor Morris and the other Commissioners. Those present who had not been accustomed to the plains witnessed a spectacle of wild splendor, as preceding the treaty, over a thousand Indians brilliantly and fantastically painted, chanting weird songs, firing rifles, exhibiting marvellous horsemanship, beating drums and giving strange yells, advanced in a semicircle near to the Commissioner’s tent. All this was preparatory to the famous dance of the stem, where the chiefs, councillors and medicine men seated themselves on buffalo robes and a beautifully decorated pipe with a long stem was produced. This was carried around the semicircle, then raised towards the heavens and the stem pointed in turn north, south, east and west. With more stately motion the Indians moved towards the council tent where they were met by the commissioners who took the pipe and one after the other stroked it gently to indicate that they reciprocated the peaceful approach of the Indians.
Soon after these treaties, the headquarters of the mounted police were moved from Swan river, which had never been satisfactory, to Fort MacLeod where they arrived on October 22nd. Across the international boundary line might be heard the roar of fighting between the Sioux Indians and the United States soldiery. The Indians there vehemently declared that they had been for years robbed by swindling government agents and driven off their land by unscrupulous gold-hunters and lawless speculators. And as in many other cases, soldiers who were themselves innocent of these things had to be called on to fight the Indians who had grown savage under a sense of wrong and who savage-like had taken revenge by killing whenever they could.
That very year, only a few months before the headquarters of the police were moved to Fort MacLeod, occurred the tragedy of the “Custer Massacre” when that gallant soldier and his no less gallant flhen. attempting the impossible, were wiped out completely by superior numbers of Sioux under the redoubtable chiefs, Sitting Bull and Spotted Eagle. “The Long Hair” as General Custer was called by the Indians, who always admired his dash and courage, fought desperately to the end and was said to be the last man to fall. Only the arrival later of General Terry, with whom Custer was to have co-operated, prevented still greater disaster to the balance of the American forces.
All this had its effect on our side of the border. It made our Indians, Blackfeet, Bloods, Piegans and others restless and it became known that the Sioux on the south of the line were making overtures to the Indians on the Canadian side either to go over and fight the Americans or to join with the Indians in the United States to drive all the whites out of the country on both sides. Inspector Denny who did much valuable work in those early days, who made an arrest in a Blackfoot camp, reported in August of 1876 that he had been consulted by the Blackfeet council and told of the efforts made by the Sioux to get the Indians on this side with them. However, the Blackfeet remained loyal mainly because they had learned to trust the mounted police. But shortly afterwards, matters were complicated by bands of Sioux crossing over the line into Canadian territory. The Canadian government being fully aware of all these events took special steps at once to make treaties with the warlike tribes which inhabited that vast area from the North Saskatchewan river towards the boundary line. For this purpose the commissioners appointed were Governor David Laird and Colonel MacLeod of.the mountedpolice.
Accordingly, on September 19, 1877, at the Blackfeet crossing of the Bow river less than a hundred miles from Fort MacLeod, the chiefs of the Blackfeet, Blood, Piegan, Stony and Sarcee tribes and some 5000 of their men, women and children met to hear the “Great Mother’s” chiefs, and there the treaty was signed.
The Peace River Treaty
ONE MORE great treaty had still to be made and though it is anticipating a date twenty years after the famous number seven treaty, we record it here before closing the chapter of treaties with the Indians of the northwest. A vast region away northward from Edmonton known generally as the Athabasca, Peace river and Mackenzie river regions had so far not been brought under treaty conditions. This was mainly due to the fact that settlement had not been making its way into that region. It was considered the home of the fur-trader and the hunter more than the farmer or the stock-raiser. But the investigation brought about by the senate committee at Ottawa on the motion and under the leadership of Senator (Sir John) Schultz, had called so much attention to the great agricultural possibilities of the country that, despite the total absence of railways, settlers were percolating slowly into that great northern area. When the gold-rush to the Klondike began midway in the nineties and some of this rush was either going through the Peace river country to the Yukon or scattering down the northern rivers, it became necessary in the view of the mounted police, who made recommendations to the Government, to make a treaty as early as possible in order to prevent trouble. Accordingly the Hon. Clifford Sifton, then superintendent-general of Indian affairs in the Laurier government, began arrangements in 1898 which led to the appointment of a commission and the making of treaty number eight in 1899. Hon. David Laird, the man who had, as governor of the territories, made the famous treaties with the Indians of the plains twenty years before was called to head the new Commission and make this final treaty with the Crees, Beavers, Chippewytms and other Indians of the far North.
Thus did these nation-building police set their seal to the great treaties which provided for the future of the Indian tribes and at the same time extinguished the title of the tribes In order to open up a new empire for higher civilization.